It’s been 25 years since Eurovision was last hosted in the UK, with Liverpool firmly in the spotlight as the city steps in to replace last year’s winner Ukraine. But there’s more than a single night of music to enjoy, with the event inspiring new ways to celebrate the whole of the UK’s musical heritage. Here’s where should make your travel playlist.
Take a music tour
To get under the skin of Liverpool’s music scene, Brit Music Tours has launched a new Liverpool Music Icons Tour, led by a member of Frankie Goes To Hollywood or The Farm.
With public tours running from April to October, the experience aims to take visitors beyond the Beatles and discover everything from gig venues to recording studios and pubs, as well as the stories behind the music.
Or the Manchester Music Walkabout tour leads visitors on a trip through seven decades of pop music in the city, from the Sixties to the present day, including a playlist of tunes from bands such as the Bee Gees, Oasis and the Smiths.
In London, the Hard Rock London Morning Tour, led by an expert guide, features a visit to the Abbey Road zebra crossing and recording studios, the homes of a string of music stars, and VIP access to The Vault — London’s only rock’n’roll museum. Visit visitbritainshop.com to book.
You can also find music tours in Bristol, including the Rock and Roll Walking Tour visiting the city’s iconic venues (complete with stories about the acts who played there) or the Everything is Music digital trail, as well as in Unesco City of Music Belfast, where the Belfast Music Walking Tour traces its long musical heritage.
Fellow Unesco City of Music Glasgow (Liverpool is the third UK city to get the accolade) has more than a few options too: Glasgow Music City Tours covers everything from folk music to Scottish legends, plus there’s the City Sightseeing music bus tour, if you prefer not to walk.
Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow (Photo: Visit Scotland/Luigi Di Pasquale)
The British Music Experience, Liverpool
If you want to do more than hear about the country’s most influential artists, head to the British Music Experience in Liverpool.
The interactive space is home to some of British music history’s most iconic memorabilia — from the Beatles to the Spice Girls — charting the rise of British pop from 1945 on. As well as outfits and instruments, there are handwritten song lyrics and the original statues from the Brit Awards.
There’s also the chance to get hands on in the Gibson Interactive Studio, learning to play guitar, drums or keyboards, as well as dancing through the eras in the Dance the Decades studio.
Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast
Home to the free NI Music Exhibition, the Oh Yeah Music Centre is Northern Ireland’s only permanent exhibition focusing on popular music.
Covering the history of the country’s music from folk to Snow Patrol, there’s memorabilia on display, plus the “Legends” wall and audiovisual displays showing everyone from the Undertones to Gary Moore.
Oh Yeah also runs the Belfast Music Bus Tour, a two-hour trip across the city passing venues like the Ulster Hall, where Led Zeppelin first performed Stairway to Heaven, as well as the site of the Maritime Hotel, where Van Morrison and Them made their debut, to name just a few stops. Go to visitbelfast.com to book.
Leeds 2023 Year of Culture, Yorkshire
You won’t be short of ideas for music lovers in Leeds this year, with 365 days of cultural activities taking place across the whole city for Leeds 2023 Year of Culture.
As well as major events such as Live at Leeds in the Park at Temple Newsam, there will be a string of other music festivals taking place, plus events ranging from a 24-hour musicathon to interactive soundscape walks.
You’ll also find live music during the summer at the new Canvas Yard, the largest open-air events space in the city centre, which opened earlier this spring.
Factory International, Manchester
The long-awaited Factory International venue (on the old Granada Studios site in Manchester) is opening in June and is set to host concerts, music events and opera as well as theatre and major exhibitions.
The largest investment in a national cultural project since the Tate Modern, it will also become the permanent home of Manchester International Festival, including a residency by Janelle Monae.
The UK’s greenest live music venue, Co-op Live is also due to open in Manchester in late 2023, with Harry Styles involved with designs for artist residencies.
Christian Dior Costume worn by Vivien Leigh (Photo: Victoria & Albert Museum)
DIVA at V&A South Kensington, London
For a music experience with a difference, brand new exhibition DIVA celebrates the power and creativity of iconic performers, from Victorian opera goddesses to today’s global megastars.
Through fashion, photography, design, costumes, music and live performance, the exhibition looks at what it means to be a diva and how divas have driven societal change through the ages. From June 24 to April 7, 2024.
Coastella Festival, Northumberland
There’s a brand-new coastal music festival coming to the North East this year, taking place in the heart of North Shields.
Championing new original music, Coastella aims to showcase the region’s top live acts as well as national artists — headliners Futureheads are confirmed, with more local and national acts to be announced. Takes place June 30 to July 2.
Newport Rock Collecting, Newport
Head to Newport Museum & Art Gallery by June 10 for a chance to discover a less well-known slice of UK music history. The Newport Rock Collecting exhibition documents the area’s musical legacy from 1970 to 2010, with memorabilia on display as well as audio and some specially created animations recreating memories from audio archives.
Highlights include contributions from 60ft Dolls, Jon Langford, Goldie Lookin Chain, Elastica, Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers, Dub War and Joe Strummer. Visit newport.gov.uk for more information.
Liverpool: 2023 highlights
Music isn’t the only reason to add Liverpool to your travel bucket list this year, there’s a string of events and new openings taking place in the city to tempt visitors to Merseyside.
It’s the 25th anniversary of Liverpool Biennial, the UK’s largest contemporary visual arts festival, launching in June. Titled uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things, more than 30 international artists and collectives will take over spaces in Liverpool with curator Khanyisile Mbongwa at the helm.
Eureka! Science + Discovery
If you’re visiting Liverpool with kids, the new Eureka! Science + Discovery is perfect. Based just across the Mersey at Seacombe Ferry Terminal in Wirral, there are hundreds of hands-on innovative and interactive activities aimed at children aged up to 14.
The first BOXPARK outside of London is coming to the city this year, opening in the Cains Brewery Village in the Baltic Triangle District. The warehouse building will be home to ten independent food operators, plus three bars, al fresco dining and entertainment.
Liverpool’s new hotels
The Municipal Liverpool Hotel is transforming one of the city’s Grade II-listed buildings into a new 179-room luxury hotel, opening this month, as part of luxury boutique hotel brand MGallery.
With library-style desks and vintage phones acting as reminders of the building’s past life as a council building, the centre will house the Palm Court Bar, plus a spa and wellness centre.
Not far away on Lime Street, the new Radisson RED Liverpool hotel is also bringing the city’s history back to life, with a 19th-century stained-glass window and a rediscovered secret doorway to its grand staircase.